Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Oracle: You Have a Very Bad Memory, Mr. Lynch

Was the British software firm Autonomy “shopped” last year to Oracle before it ended up in the arms of Hewlett-Packard?

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal today, Autonomy’s CEO Mike Lynch — the man sometimes described as the British Bill Gates — says Oracle was never approached as a possible buyer of his company late last year. Mentioned by bankers mulling possible acquirers, maybe, but never approached directly.

The statement came in response to a verbal slap by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, made on an earnings conference call last week, that Oracle had been approached by Autonomy, and took a pass because the price was “absurdly high.”

Indeed, there were reports — one I remarked on at the time — suggesting that Oracle had kicked Autonomy’s tires, and Autonomy shares spiked on the very suggestion that the acquisitive Oracle would take the firm out. They obviously proved unfounded, and Autonomy went on its merry all-but-anonymous way until HP stepped in with an $11.7 billion offer that was announced on Aug. 18.

The latest version of events just emerged in a statement from Oracle. Oh yes, Oracle says, Lynch did indeed approach Oracle about a deal, and specifically made a pitch — complete with a PowerPoint presentation — to Oracle president Mark Hurd and to its M&A head Douglas Kehring. According to Oracle’s recollection, in a meeting attended by Lynch’s banker Frank Quattrone, Hurd told Lynch that he thought Autonomy was overpriced at $6 billion, roughly half of what HP paid. Also: Oracle still has the PowerPoint deck. Zing!

The full Oracle statement is below:

“After HP agreed to acquire Autonomy for over $11.7 billion dollars, Oracle commented that Autonomy had been ‘shopped’ to Oracle as well, but Oracle wasn’t interested because the price was way too high. Mike Lynch, Autonomy CEO, then publicly denied that his company had been shopped to Oracle. Specifically, Mr. Lynch said, “If some bank happened to come with us on a list, that is nothing to do with us.” Mr. Lynch then accused of Oracle of being ‘inaccurate’. Either Mr. Lynch has a very poor memory or he’s lying. ‘Some bank’ did not just happen to come to Oracle with Autonomy ‘on a list’.” The truth is that Mr. Lynch came to Oracle, along with his investment banker, Frank Quattrone, and met with Oracle’s head of M&A, Douglas Kehring and Oracle President Mark Hurd at 11 am on April 1, 2011. After listening to Mr. Lynch’s PowerPoint slide sales pitch to sell Autonomy to Oracle, Mr. Kehring and Mr. Hurd told Mr. Lynch that with a current market value of $6 billion, Autonomy was already extremely over-priced. The Lynch shopping visit to Oracle is easy to verify. We still have his PowerPoint slides.”


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik